How to Stop Smoking

Everyone knows smoking is bad for your health. In fact, smoking kills around ten times more people every year than opioids. Fewer people know that smoking is also bad for your recovery. One study found that smokers were almost twice as likely to relapse as non-smokers. People who started recovery as smokers but then quit fell somewhere in the middle.

It makes sense when you think about it. Smoking is strongly associated with drinking. It has a whole ritual, a distinctive smell and taste. It may feel unnatural to have a cigarette without a drink. Smoking is essentially a strong trigger that that most people tolerate during recovery. If you do smoke, quitting will certainly improve your health and it might make recovery easier too.

Know why you want to quit. Yes, smoking is bad for you, but having a specific reason can make your motivation more concrete. Maybe you want to play with your kids but you can’t because you get winded. Maybe you have grandkids you want to see grow up. Whatever your reasons, vividly imagine rewards for quitting and consequences for not quitting. Make it emotional, not just some vague feeling that you “should” quit.

Know your triggers. More than other addictions, smoking tends to be tied to routine. You wake up and have a cigarette. You get in the car and have a cigarette. You have a mid-morning cigarette and a lunch cigarette, and so on. You might also reach for a cigarette in moments of stress or anxiety. Write down whatever triggers you can think of so you can figure out how to deal with them when they arise.

Make a plan. This might involve replacement habits, like chewing gum or taking a walk instead of having a cigarette. It might involve medication, like nicotine gum or patches. Exercise and mindfulness meditation help some people. Your plan will probably have several different facets, but the simpler it is, the better. It’s hard to begin a bunch of new behaviors at once, but you at least need to cover your major triggers.

Get help. If you’re already in recovery, you are aware that no one quits without help. Quitting smoking is a goal most people are willing to support. Ironically, smoking is more common in 12-step programs than it is in the general public, so you might actually find more support outside of the rooms. Just because someone smokes doesn’t mean she won’t support your quitting, but being around smokers does make it harder to quit. Consider getting help from a therapist or doctor, especially if you want to try nicotine replacement. There are also programs that can help you quit smoking, such as the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking program.

Tobacco is one of the most addictive drugs around, but if you quit alcohol or other drugs, you can quit smoking too. Use what you learned and remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.